Pope: Hidden heroism of families caring for the sick
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the family on Wednesday at his weekly General Audience, focusing on the issue of sickness in the family.
Illness is an issue that affects everyone, Pope Francis said, and when someone in our family is sick, we feel it even more deeply. It is harder for a mother or a father to see their child fall ill than to be sick themselves. And often it is the family that must take the lead in caring for one another.
The Holy Father spoke about the many times Jesus healed people in the Gospel. The Lord never passed people by, but was always close to them. And Jesus always put healing first – healing took priority over the law, even as important and holy a law as the Sabbath rest.
Later, Jesus sent His disciples to do the same works He Himself had accomplished, giving them the power to heal – that is, the Pope said, the ability to be close to the sick, and to care for them to end. It is our duty as Christ’s disciples to help the sick, to console them and lift them up, and to be close to them.
The Church, too, Pope Francis said, invites us to pray continually for those who are ill. “Prayer for the sick must never be lacking! Rather, we must pray more, both personally and as a community.”
Although sickness gives rise to many difficulties, even in good families, in general it can be a moment of grace that makes family bonds grow even stronger. Pope Francis emphasized the importance of teaching children, even from a very young age, to be close to those who are sick. Without this compassion and sympathy for others, he warned, we risk becoming “anesthetized,” and unable to deal with our own suffering. He praised the care and compassion of family members for those who are sick. “These things are heroic, they are the heroism of the family!” he said.
Pope Francis concluded by noting that Christian families know they are never alone in times of sickness. “We must give thanks to the Lord for those beautiful experiences of fraternity in the Church that helps families to get through difficult moments of sorrow and suffering.” This Christian closeness, he said, “from one family to another, is a true treasure for the parish: a treasure of witness, which helps families in difficult moments, and makes them understand better the Kingdom of God… These are the caresses of God.”
Below, please find the English language summary of the Pope’s catechesis during Wednesday’s General Audience:
Today we consider one of the conditions common to all families, namely, illness. Many times in the Gospels Jesus meets the sick and heals them. His desire to cure suffering is a central part of his ministry, coming even before observance of the law. He sends his disciples to do the same, giving them the power to heal, and to draw close to the sick, touching their deepest wounds and bringing them peace. The illness of one person can be a severe trial for all family members. As followers of Christ, we are called to pray without ceasing for the sick and dying, and to support families where this is being experienced. So too we must educate children to solidarity with the sick so that they are not anesthetized to the sufferings of others, but rather are capable of helping the ill and of living fully each human experience. May we always give thanks to the Lord for the support of the Church shown to families in times of illness, especially between families themselves.